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Grade Inflation

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Autor:   •  March 15, 2011  •  1,622 Words (7 Pages)  •  291 Views

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In this paper we will examine the common belief that grade inflation exists and the reasons be hide it. We will show that not only do students worry about getting a high grade but the professor feels pressure to give good grades in fear of not gaining tenure due to poor student evaluations. This example along with several others hopefully will show the existence of grade inflation and the need for corrective action.

Grade Inflation, is it a problem? Let's start with a mind boggling statistic, fewer then 20 % of all college students receive grades below a B-minus, according to a study released by the American Academy of Arts & Sciences. Let's go one step further when a report found that eight out of every ten Harvard students graduate with honors and nearly half receive A's in their courses. Do you think that grade inflation might be a problem?

Are today's college students just smarter and better prepared? Not according to the SAT scores from the past 30 years. "The SAT scores of entering students have declined, and fully a third of freshman are enrolled in at least one remedial reading, writing or math course" (Merrow, 2003, p.13a).

Are today's college students working harder? It doesn't appear to be since a study by the National Survey of Student Engagement (2003) uncovered that not even 15 % of students study the recommended two hours per one hour of class time.

Grade inflation raises all grades to the top which makes it very difficult to use grades as a form of judgment. All students appear to be above average which prompts recruiters and employers to have to consider other forms of evaluation. Other evaluation methods may exclude an excellent student, who worked above and beyond to receive their grade, because they do not know the "right people" or are not as out going as others. The loss of "average" shows that professors do not set their own criteria any more but adapt to the students expectations. The method of students evaluating non-tenured professors has created a problem that many fell is the biggest reason for the rapid increase in grades. Professors who can be dismissed at any time feel that they need to be lenient because they know that bad evaluations from students may ultimately cost them their jobs. The professor adopts the philosophy of "if you don't hassle me, I won't ask too much of you" (Birk, 2000). Being a tough marker is not compatible with a good evaluation, no matter what anyone says.

Grade inflation lies at the new cultural roots of our society.

The thickest of these roots is the "kinder, gentler" way in which we have come to deal with young people in general. We more or less eliminated all forms of corporal punishment when they were very young, (a good thing, of course) and tried "suggesting" that kids be self-reliant and enterprising. (We were surprised when they sometimes didn't take our suggestions to heart.) This continued in high school and into college.

We coddled them, told them how wonderful they were, how everyone was a winner, etc. Now that high schools rarely hold students back, students whiz through with minimum effort. This has led to two kinds of student, often within the same person: a lazy, narcissistic student, used to getting good grades with relatively little effort, and an ill-prepared student.

Narcissism results when someone begins to internalize the public relations campaign we build up around them in order to get them into good colleges. We have them do activities to get them into college, and the students undertake them for no other reason then to get them into college. The intrinsic worth of whatever community service they're doing couldn't mean less to them. Narcissism also ultimately means that one's moral compass doesn't work as well. Guilt about stealing a test? Hey, I gotta do what I gotta do. If I flunk, my parents (who are financing this) will kill me.

Students today also impress me with their cynicism about education, which they regard as a rigged game to be gotten around. A liberal education is simply not important to them. The whys of philosophy, the pleasures of literature, the rigors of science take a back seat to such questions as: How do I learn skills that will get me a high paying job? Students are so caught up in grades that they don't realize how unimportant they are once out of school. They want the good life, the life their parents have. But they don't want to be "chumps" or "nerds" and work too hard. That wouldn't be "cool." That's why more then a third of students said that they would drop out of school if it didn't help their job chances.

Students need to understand that it is not the grades that matter but their involvement in their studies, campus life and surrounding activities. This concept is known as "engagement" which leads to "deep learning," or learning from understanding (Merrow, 2003, p.13a). Deep learning is the notion that you understand and will retain the material even though you might not get the highest grade. Your knowledge will stay with you, as apposed to the knowledge of someone who crammed the information the night before and received a higher grade then you. Grades have become more important to the student then the actual knowledge they are supposed to be receiving.

The other part of all of this is that they are ill-prepared. I hope it is not just I who notices that students no longer possess knowledge I consider basic to being a well informed citizen: who the vice-president is, who Shakespeare was, how to do simple multiplication and division. (And these are kids from upper middle class homes!!) Let's face it: young people of a generation ago did know these things, and might have been the first in their families to go to college. They faced strict-marking professors in colleges not so dependent upon their tuition. One bad semester and it was goodbye, Charlie. It is now almost impossible to be thrown out of private college; at 35,000 dollars or more per year, private colleges know two things: one, they can ill afford to kick out weak students, and two, those students have many other colleges to choose from.

Are there other root causes? Certainly. There is another

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